High Performance Aviation
Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) Transition Training
By Brandon J. Ray, CFI, CFII, MEI, Master Flight Instructor
In recent years, general aviation has benefited from many innovations and technological advancements. We have seen glass cockpits become standard equipment on new aircraft. Satellite datalink weather now helps guide our inflight decision-making and diversion planning. Digital autopilots on Skyhawks now rival those found on the commercial airlines. NDBs and VORs have faded out of the spotlight as GPS and WAAS technology take over as the navigation source of choice. Moving maps and iPads have replaced the traditional paper charts, plotters and E6Bs. To some pilots, “partial panel” means they lost their XM radio and have to revert to their backup iPod. (Tough flight, huh?)
Lots of Change… Good or Bad?
With all the new technology available in the cockpit, we have the opportunity to improve safety and increase our flying capabilities. Unfortunately, the technology can also create distractions and cause pilots to fumble around with knobs wondering, “How do I do that again?” Sure, you can read the manuals and try to figure it out as you go. You’ll quickly find that the manuals were mostly written by tech writers (with the valuable input of the lawyers, of course) and aren’t always the most efficient way to learn a new system. After trying to learn the avionics and advanced systems while flying, you start to realize that perhaps spending $100-$200 per hour on Avgas while fumbling with knobs probably isn’t the most effective use of your time or money… Not to mention the potentially compromised safety.
Effective Transition Training
Armed with over 500 hours of G1000 experience, I figured I knew most of what I needed to know about the G1000 based on experience (trial and error). When I went to work for Cessna, I went through my first official “G1000 transition training” course. I quickly realized that in 500 hours of G1000 experience, I had only begun to scratch the surface of the full capability of the system. Through very specific scenario-based transition training, I was able to learn more about the G1000 in two and a half days than I had in two and a half years of trial and error. I began teaching the Cessna FITS Factory Transition Training to customers on a daily basis and got to see repeated examples of those “aha” moments where even the most experienced pilots learned to use their aircraft and avionics more effectively. Since then, I have had the opportunity to train hundreds of clients in Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA), and I now fully appreciate the value of a focused, well-organized transition course.
While many instructors may claim to have glass cockpit experience, it is important to find a CFI who is not just familiar with your particular aircraft and avionics, but also proficient in the use and instruction of these systems. You want to find an instructor that can teach you the nuances and “gotchas” of your airplane. If you are looking at purchasing a new or used TAA aircraft, you are probably already researching information regarding the most appropriate aircraft, financing, and insurance arrangements. As this process can quickly become overwhelming, don’t neglect to search for a well-qualified instructor. Regardless of your experience level, don’t settle for just flying a “few times around the patch” with your salesman. This following information is presented with the intention of providing guidance when looking for the best transition training for your aircraft.
Things to Look For
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to instruct many pilots transitioning to Technically Advanced Aircraft, and there are a few things to look for when choosing your training. First, check to make sure the training will meet all of your requirements…
FAA Requirements (FAR 61.41):
For an aircraft greater than 200 HP you will need a high performance endorsement. Although there is no requirement for a Technically Advanced Aircraft endorsement, you will want to make sure you receive specific training on the avionics and advanced systems for the aircraft. A high-altitude endorsement is only required of your aircraft is pressurized, so it is not necessary to get this for a Cirrus SR22T or Cessna Corvalis TT, even though you may fly at high altitudes. Even so, if you plan to fly in or near the flight levels, I would strongly recommend getting high altitude training from an experienced instructor and also set up an appointment to visit the altitude chamber.
Will the transition training meet the requirements of your insurance underwriter? Each underwriter has different requirements, but they will probably want to know the credentials of your instructor and the content of the training you will receive. Check with your insurance broker to verify the training and instructor requirements. Also, you will want to make sure your transition instructor is listed on the insurance policy for coverage during the transition training.
Factory Accepted Training:
Ideally, your training will be an official “factory-accepted” training course. Cessna has the “Cessna FITS Accepted Instructor” (CFAI & CFAI+) program, and Cirrus has the “Cirrus Standardized Instructor Program” (CSIP). These programs provide a standardized syllabus for each applicable aircraft, specific to the needs of a VFR or IFR pilot. These courses result in a certificate of completion that can be submitted to your insurance company for proof of training. Check with your transition instructor to make sure your training will qualify as “factory accepted training”.
Beyond the Transition Training
What happens after the transition training? I recommend a follow-up training session within the next 3-6 months to serve as a brief refresher. After that, you will want to evaluate a continued training plan with your instructor according to your specific needs.
I typically schedule quarterly training sessions with local clients to keep them sharp on their instrument skills and to spread out the learning throughout the year. This tends to be more effective and consistent rather than just training once every one to two years. Even for out-of-state clients, we typically schedule at least one full day of training per year to go above and beyond the requirements of the FAA.
The WINGS program is one more way to improve and maintain proficiency. It involves a combination of ground review and flight training, and if completed successfully, will substitute for the requirement of a flight review. Talk to your insurance company to see if they offer any discounts for participating.
I highly recommend joining the clubs or associations that are focused on your particular aircraft type. These clubs and online forums can provide valuable information and a wealth of knowledge from many experienced pilots and aircraft owners. Other options include attending training events hosted by owners’ groups or clubs who specialize in your particular aircraft. Keep in mind that this type of training is usually designed as recurrent training, rather than initial transition training.
Safety-Focused… Do the Math!
Most pilots have an honest desire to be safe, especially in consideration of the friends and family members that entrust their lives to us in flight. It is not uncommon for aircraft owners to spend half a million dollars buying an aircraft with the latest safety features, $5,000 to $10,000 annually on insurance, $3000 per year on a hangar, $10,000 to $20,000 per year on fuel, $1,000 on avionics databases, and a few thousand dollars more on the latest aviation gadgets. This is all fine, but are we neglecting the most important safety feature available – the pilot? It is no secret that pilot error is the cause of most aviation accidents… So it only makes sense that if we value safety, we should focus more on improving our pilot skills and proficiency. Budgeting $200 to do a minimalistic flight review every 2 years is a sign of disproportionate priorities. Consider participating in a recurrent training plan that is appropriate to your needs. Your family will appreciate the increased safety much more than just having a good insurance policy.
Investing in Your Safety
Your transition training is an important investment in your safety. For more information on specific transition training courses from HPA, please checkout the following links:
Cessna Aircraft Transition Training
Lancair Columbia Aircraft Transition Training
Cirrus Aircraft Transition Training
Other HPA training articles are available for download at: https://www.flyhpa.com/category/training/
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